A Police Department Operations Assessment Report, commissioned by Cumberland Township and prepared by Ron Camacho from Camacho Consulting and published in May underscores the many difficulties the Cumberland Township Police Department has faced during the past years.
The tide has hopefully turned with the recent appointment of Matthew Trostel as the new police chief, but the report says there are substantial steps that should be taken going forward.
The report noted that the recent departure of Don Boehs who had served as Chief of Police for 16 years as well as other senior officers created “a path toward strengthening the organization.”
The report described the current officers as “dedicated public servants who desire that the department overcome past deficiencies. The supervisors support the department and want to see it return to its previous levels of proactivity.”
The report said the township supervisors had expressed concern about what they saw as “significant lapses in leadership in the department including the use of township resources, time, and authority of office to engage in political activity, a failure to consistently administer policies, and a minimization of complaints from the public.”
Going forward, the report recommended the commissioners hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings with the chief, the township manager, and at least one of the members of the department supervisory staff to ensure they are thoroughly briefed on police department operations.
“This committee’s complexion will promote an atmosphere of cooperation and accountability, as directives and information are conveyed to more than one supervisory employee.” said the report.
The report also recommended the supervisors review the performance of the chief of police through a regular and formal performance evaluation.
The report said each of the officers interviewed described former police chief Boehs as a “nice guy” but also blamed him for the department’s morale and leadership issues. According to the report, officers said Boehs would often “blame the board for decisions that did not go his way.”
The report suggests the supervisors develop a way by which concerns regarding the chief of police can be brought to their attention, for instance by having union shop stewards can bring concerns to them.
In terms of staffing, the report recommended the board, in conjunction with the chief of police, decide on the number of officers the department needs to operate effectively.
The report recommended the use of scheduling software to reduce the administrative burden as well as reporting software that would streamline reporting police events to the public.
In terms of training, the report recommended the department develop a mandatory list of classes that all new officers should attend and should continuously require leaders to improve their management and supervisory skills through conferences and additional training.
The report said the officers were uniformly behind Trostel as the new chief of police.
In terms of potentially combining with the Gettysburg Police Department, the report said the officers were against the idea and suggested it should not happen at this time.
The report also recommended adding a civilian administrative position to free up time for the chief police to plan, direct, and lead the operations of the department.
In terms of infrastructure, the report said the police section of the township building was “cramped, outdated, and problematic in sustaining the eventual growth of the department and township.” The report encouraged the board to develop a long-term plan to improve the infrastructure of the police department through grants and other government funds.
Saying existing procedures for storing physical evidence are “grossly inadequate,” including being unsecured and not climate-controlled, the report said an officer should be trained to serve as a backup evidence custodian when the acting detective sergeant is unavailable.
The report concluded by saying “the focus must shift from prior leadership failures within the department to improving the personnel and physical infrastructure of the department. With elected officials and employees willing to tackle the challenges, the momentum of department improvements realized over the last few months will serve as a springboard for a reinvigorated organization.”